The Cow Palace is operated by the District Agriculture Association 1-A, under the supervision of the State of California Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Fairs and Expositions.  As District 1-A, the Cow Palace is the very first of 54 Fairground Associations in California! It was inspired by the extremely popular livestock pavillion at the Pan Pacific Exposition and World's Fair in 1915 and ultimately built during the Great Depression of the 1930s under the New Deal WPA "Works Progress Administration" program. The Cow Palace first opened in 1941 during World War II, when it was almost immediately pressed into service to support soldiers bound for the Pacific Theater.

Since opening in 1941, the Cow Palace has welcomed over 50 million visitors, seamlessly hosting countless events, concerts, rallies, and celebrations. Over more than 75 years, the Cow Palace has hosted many significant moments in US History and popular culture. See below to learn more about the Cow Palace's place in the history of Rock and Roll, Politics, Agriculture, Sports, Entertainment, Festivals and Special Events.


"History is alive at the Cow Palace!

Its lessons must be preserved for the

education and inspiration of future generations."

Explore the slide show below to discover more than 30
little-known and historic moments at the Cow Palace!

The Historic Cow Palace
The Historic Cow Palace

As seen in a picture postcard from the 1950s. For over 75 years the Cow Palace has been a vital part of its community, welcoming over 50 million visitors through its doors.

Cow Palace construction, 1938
Cow Palace construction, 1938

The idea for what was to become the Cow Palace was born in 1915 but lay dormant until the early 1930s. However, as the Great Depression worsened, with millions unemployed, a local newspaper asked, "Why, when people are starving, should money be spent on a "palace for cows?" A headline writer turned the phrase around - hence the origin of "Cow Palace." It was built via the New Deal WPA program & completed in 1941.

The San Francisco Bulls, 2012-14
The San Francisco Bulls, 2012-14

The Cow Palace readied for the San Francisco Bulls ice hockey team, 2012-2014. The Bulls were a professional minor ice hockey team of the ECHL and an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks. To accommodate the Bulls, the team spent $2 million installing a new ice system in the Cow Palace and a custom-made 360-degree wraparound LED video scoreboard. The Bulls folded in 2014.

The Historic Cow Palace
The Historic Cow Palace

As seen in a picture postcard from the 1950s. For over 75 years the Cow Palace has been a vital part of its community, welcoming over 50 million visitors through its doors.

Rock 'n Roll History


In the 1960s the Beatles played their very first U.S. tour date at the Cow Palace. The arena concert came of age at the Cow Palace with countless other major music events from the Rolling Stones to the Beach Boys, from the Jackson 5 to Elvis Presley, The Who, the Grateful Dead, KISS, Van Halen, Prince, U2, Nirvana, and many many more.

Agricultural & Rodeo History


Beginning its long history as a Livestock Pavilion, the Cow Palace has continued to serve the agricultural community of California and the West. With agriculture still the largest economic sector in the State, the Cow Palace has a unique opportunity to support and inform as well as entertain and inspire. The youth of today need to know where their food comes from, and perhaps take an interest in becoming a much needed future farmer of America.


Sports History

The Cow Palace has been home to many sports including boxing and wrestling, soccer, basketball, ice hockey, pro tennis, and even roller derby! Hosting athletes from Wilt Chamberlain to John McEnroe, the Cow Palace was the original West Coast home of the San Francisco Warriors (later the NBA’s Golden State Warriors). Other sports teams included the San Jose / Golden Bay Earthquakes, San Francisco Seals, San Jose Sharks, and San Francisco Bulls.

Fairs, Festivals & Circus History


Since its opening, the Cow Palace has hosted many recurring events that have contributed to the rich tapestry of culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. Past annual events include the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the Exotic Erotic Ball.


Current annual events with a lengthy tenure at the Cow Palace include The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, and the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show.

Political History


Major political events hosted at the Cow Palace include the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions, historic appearances by then Senator John F. Kennedy where he announced his plans for "A Peace Corps," and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking and educating the world about the critical importance of the Civil Rights Amendment.